Japanese Top 10 Songs of Summer (part 2)
Today we start off where we left off yesterday – with 地獄少女 Jigoku Shōjo Hell Girl. This song’s title means “one pull.” Although this phrase is dangerously close to the Japanese phrase for “to rub one out[i]”, it actually refers to the Hell Girl offering one pull of a string to take all of your sorrows away[ii]. It’s dark and sultry and… quite frankly, sexy. It’s also spooky as hell which makes it perfect for お盆 o-bon. So I think this is the best song to start off my next half of the list of top 10 summer songs for Japan.
金魚花火 Kingyo Hanabi
This is a song by Ōtsuka Ai, the title of which translates as Gold Fish Fireworks. Kingyo fireworks are actually a real thing. They a cluster of explosions that after being launched from boats, appear to “swim around” over the water. The water reflects the lights and the smoke is saturated with light.
Anyone who has spent a summer in Japan, knows that all summer long, not only are there festivals, but there are also great firework displays all over the country. There are at least 12 major firework displays in the Tōkyō Metropolitan area worthy of the capital city. Some of these, for example the Sumidagawa Fireworks date back to the Edo Period. Needless to say, Japan takes its fireworks seriously. And fireworks tie into the Japanese love of 儚い hakanai the fleeting moment.
This song is by YUKI, if you don’t know her… I’ll just say that you should and that her pedigree comes from a group called Judy and Mary. Anyhoo, Judy and Mary are ancient history and to be honest YUKI could have gone that way, but as pop artists go in Japan, she holds a certain classic position as just being YUKI. For better or for worse.
This song was a single during my days as a resident of Japan. I arrived in January of 2005 just when the track was released and even though it was a winter release; the song was so big that it rode a wave of popularity well into the spring. The lyrics are great, I think, and it takes me back to my first year in Japan and because it’s so positive, I think it works as a perfect summer song. If you hear this song at the beach, everyone gets really super genki.
By the way, this is one of the most memorable videos of all J-Pop’s history. Probably everyone between 20 and 40 knows it… and if they don’t, you don’t want to know them.
リルラ リルハ RiRuRa RiRuHa
This came out in March of 2005, my first year in Japan. The song was everywhere because it was used as in a Vodafone commercial – a company that doesn’t exist anymore in Japan[iii]. It was a massive hit and the song was in heavy rotation well into the spring and early summer. So again, I have great memories of this tune and because it’s so positive, I tend to associate it with summer barbecues by the river and drunken revelries on the beach.
The actual video isn’t available on YouTube[iv], but you can see it if you try this song at karaoke.
For the time being, here’s a live version of it.
This song has absolutely nothing to do with summer. It just rocks any time of the year. It’s by the only original “idol” act – an act which recently has been repeatedly imitated or outright ripped off in Japan and throughout Asia. I fucking love them and think their producer, Nakata Yasutaka, is a freaking genius with a capital “G.” Anyways, I couldn’t make a list of Japanese pop music without including Perfume. That would be sacrilege[v].
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[i] ie; male masturbation
[ii] By condemning another person to 地獄 jigoku hell for eternity.
[iii] Softbank bought them out.
[iv] Fuck you very much, traditional bullshit Japanese record companies. You suck because you haven’t left 1990. (Don’t get me started on the Japanese music business… a brother’s got opinions.)
[v] And we all know, Yours Truly would never commit sacrilege.
4 thoughts on “Top 10 Japanese Songs of Summer 2”
You forgot the single most far reaching Japanese song of summer from recent history– it is far reaching in that it reverberates from the crappy sound systems used for every local neighborhood Bon dance in August here in Tokyo. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PJFsJxLqZQg
I didn’t “forget” that song, I intentionally overlooked it. lol
Just came across your blog now. Looking forward to digging in…My list would have to include Tokyo Ondo, Shounen Jidai by Inoue Yosui, and hmmm, something by Southern All Stars. Can’t think of a specific tune, but maybe just Kuwata’s voice. Haha, and also, Yomiuri Giant’s stadium chants. I hate the Giants, but it’s ubiquotious.